Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What We Say Without Words

At the park this afternoon, there was a father on the swings with his baby son. The son had some sort of developmental disability. The grandparents were there, too, with the grandmother taking video and the grandfather sitting at a nearby table. As Louie and I passed, I smiled at the grandfather in a way that meant I thought his grandson was beautiful, if disabled.

He must get this all the time. He was nice enough to smile back sincerely. And in that smile, and the cock of his head, he told me I'm not the first person who'd felt compelled to be extraordinarily friendly to him and his disabled grandson, and that he wasn't offended.

I was once in a Girl Scout Troop with a girl named Danica, who had Down's Syndrome. We never spoke of Danica's disability, although it impacted all of us--girls, adults, leaders--at every meeting, camping trip, or activity. We knew it was there, but instead of mentioning Down's Syndrome, we'd just ask if Danica wanted to be tentmates.

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